Granite Mountain

This was one gorgeous day to be in the mountains. I spent last weekend working and next weekend's weather does not look to be very promising. With that in mind I decided to take advantage of the sun this day to get to a high viewpoint. I was anxious to see the first dusting of snow on the mountain tops this season. I put in a half day of work and headed out of town at 10:25. By 11:20 I was at the Pratt trailhead. There were 8 or 9 cars in the lot. I was not the only one taking advantage of a sunny Wednesday. It was clear and cold in the morning and it was still a bit chilly at 11:30. As I hiked up the trail I warmed up quickly. About a mile and a half up the trail I stopped to take off my long sleeve polypro and my convertible pants legs. Only four days away from November and it felt like August. There was absolutely no wind and it did not change all day. This trail is a good workout as it gains 3800' over 4 1/2 miles. Soon the trail will be snow covered and the route will be straight up the last few thousand feet.

I passed one couple who had been to the top. It would have been great to have had early morning light. It was very bright out by this time. At about 3800' I reached the first traces of snow. Soon some more was in shady spots while it was still bare in the sun. The trail began the long traverse to the east. I reached the huckleberry bushes and they had neither berries nor leaves. I came upon a lone mountain ash with bright red berries. Be the time I neared the small tarns the trail was mostly snow covered. I could now see farther to the east. Rampart Ridge was highlighted by a dusting of fresh snow. Mt. Rainier came into sight but the bright sun, low on the horizon, made it difficult to see. I did have a good view of the lookout before it hid behind the ridge again.

I passed two women coming down who mentioned there were four more hikers ahead of me. It looked like I would have a beaten down path to the summit. The snow was a bit sloppy and I slowed down a little to keep from falling on my behind. After a beautiful summer of hiking it was nice to be back on snow again. After a short climb the trail reached the meadow below the lookout. By now the snow was 4-5" deep. The trailblazers had managed to stay on the summer trail making it easy to ascend. Kaleetan came into view with a nice blanket of white cloaking the summit. Higher up I could see down to Tuscohatchie Lake and then Crystal Lake. Neither one had any snow on it. The Cascade crest came into view as well. I could see Chikamin and Lemah close by.

Two groups passed me on their way down as I neared the summit. Once on top I found Peter to be the only hiker left. He was basking in the sun and I quickly dropped my pack nearby. The mountains looked so much better with a coating of white. Glacier Peak was clear to the north and Mt. Adams was partly in the only cloud in the sky. Even the Olympic Mountains were clearly visible to the west. Seemingly as always, I had a clear view of Mt. Stuart. The continued lack of any wind made it very comfortable on the summit. The lookout is all closed up for the winter. It took me just under 2 1/2 hours coming up. It was still early enough to spend lots of time on top. Peter soon headed down and I was alone. Not long after, Amar arrived. He is a serious volcano skier and major contributor to the "Turns All Year" web site. I find it to be a great resource for getting updated information on snow conditions in the spring. It makes judging spring scramble conditions much easier. Amar skis most every month of the year.

When two more hikers arrived it was time for me to start down. I had spent nearly an hour on the summit. I took out my poles and put on gaiters and took off. The snow had softened greatly in the time I was on top. It was slushy enough that the gaiters were very useful. I took my time at first as there were still many photos to take. By the time I reached the meadow I had already passed 3 groups coming up. It was 3:30 back at the tarn and more groups were coming up. It looked like at least a few would need headlamps coming down. The rest of the way down was vintage late summer hiking. It was warm. I know it will be at least 5 months until I have another shorts and short sleeve hike. Oh well, after this day it's time to bring on the snow!

First Snow
South Slope
Rampart Ridge
Lake Keechelus
Kaleetan Peak
Summit Lookout
Snowy Trail
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2004